I’ve been waffling about this space for months, committing a good bit of maternal fraud along the way. I go back and forth about how I want to use this space for stories: a daily post to keep the writing habit up? A lab for stories I want to expand? Preachy little bits about how I do things so well (which would well and truly be an exercise in writing good fiction)?
And as I waver back and forth between the choices, I don’t put a word on the screen.
I hang out with a lot of writers. Writers who have found their process (finding your own process is an oft-repeated line at writer’s conferences) through their own trial and error. Writers who have devised carrot-stick methods to create the perfect ratio of action and reward to come up with a finished product. Writers who have learned to accept that it’s ok to try something only to learn that while the overall effort might not work, there are bits that do. Writers who don’t wait for “inspiration” but have immense faith that showing up, putting words on the screen brings the story to life.
There are living/breathing/typing examples of working writers all over the place in my life, but I’ve stubbornly decided that I’m different so I keep holding out until I hit on the type of blog posts that will make for a perfect, always cohesive whole. Preferably without any mental sweat in the creation.
Then there’s the maternal fraud. Lovely Daughter graduated from college in May with no real firm vision of what her next steps will be. I do my best to encourage her to look around, to experiment, After all, I ask, how can you know what you want to do without trying?
In other words, my pretty, smart, 22-year-old daughter, you go try new things, but in the meantime I’m going to waffle and not do anything until I figure out what’s perfect.
Yes, I recognize the sheer hypocrisy in telling anyone to try, try, try and refusing to do the same. But that doesn’t mean action. I’ve been edging closer to filling this space. Shifting from thinking I want to do something here to admitting that NOT doing anything here is hurting me more than helping. But still the cursor has blinked on and on and on without words to give the story traction.
Then this morning something clicked.
I went out the side door of the garage to get the newspapers when a flash of brown shot up the strip of lawn between our driveway and the new house next door only to stop just before the sidewalk. The deer stood there, motionless, giving out that “if I don’t move the human won’t see me” vibe.
Since the greenway behind our house has opened for humans in motion and the building frenzy in our neighborhood has closed in the remaining empty lots, the neighborhood pack of deer seems to have been at a loss.
They still like to scare you silly at dusk or dawn, leaping through the old deer runs that now involve streets and cars and danger to anyone not paying attention. They still like to nibble at the willows in our backyard or munch on our knockout roses which are decimated and sickly compared to the neighbors’. (The knockout roses in my care are the only ones NC deer eat, apparently. And somehow they’ve decided to share them with voles which are protected in this state. )
MDR and I have commented on how there are a couple of deer who’ve decided that humans are not going to hurt them. They continue to graze along the Greenway pavement, unconcerned, unmoved by the people running or riding by them.
I recognize this deer standing by the sidewalk on this early morning. She hasn’t moved when I’ve run by her on the greenway. And she’s not giving up her space on this strip of lawn for the likes of me.
I approach, staring her down, sure she’s going to bolt back down to the woods when I get closer. But she just coolly watches me as I walk by. I get to the grass by the curb, bend down to get the paper and look casually over my right shoulder back at the deer. She’s gone. Normal behavior, finally.
I stand up fully and turn around and there’s the deer, standing on MY driveway between me and the door, staring me down again. Think of a horror movie and how the scary thing gets closer with seemingly not movement.
But this is real life.
With a deer.
I consider this. I look at this skinny deer with her spindly stick legs. Her ears are pricked forward, eyes on me. The only bit of her consternation shows in the small heaving of her sides.
Now, I have a friend who lives in the wilds of California’s Sierra Nevadas. She runs into all manner of wild life in her walks – bear, coyote, pigs (or maybe I imagined that). Since she has a healthy respect for the potential pain a run in with them would bring she does the smart thing and runs in the opposite direction. But this deer was between me and my side door. (OK, now that I think about it, I could have gone to the front door and rung the bell, but that would have been ridiculous.) Being hurt by a bear or coyote has a weird sort of honor about it. Me? I was facing a deer that could have attacked (I’ve seen the You Tube videos) with spindly legs slapping out at me. And that would not only look silly, it would hurt.
Not to mention the potential for ticks if I tangled with a deer. Shows me, doesn’t it? She might not eat me to death, but she’d give me Lyme Disease and I’d have joint pain for the rest of my life.
I wasn’t going to be stared down by a deer. I looked in her eyes and said, “I’ve got nothing for you. I’m going in now.”
And, breaking the eye contact, I walked past her as she stood there. I didn’t look back, I walked with great dignity, heart pounding at taking on wildlife and holding my line. As I turned to go in the door, I risked a glance. She’d lowered her head and was taking a bite of the roses.
It was an adrenaline rush for 6:50 am, I’ll give you that. Had to tell MDR about it as soon as I got inside then shared with the Lovely Daughter when she came down for breakfast. (When I went for my run a couple hours later, the same Lovely Daughter saw me off with a “watch out for that deer.” I think it may stick as a family catch phrase.)
As I told that story of my morning adventure (twice) that voice in my head (the critic, the head cheerleader) said bluntly, “that deer stood for what she wanted, despite the fear. You can’t stand for something you need to do?” And for a change I didn’t argue with the voice, I could see exactly what it meant: the deer skittered a bit, probably dithered in her head the way I do all the time then ultimately decided to not give away any more ground.
Or at least that’s how I’m going to interpret the stand down at 6:50.
Thus a story was written. And regular posts will follow.